Just Yesterday
William M. O'Brien, Jr.

Reading into the many philosophies and descriptions of post modernism put Nicole Mellies asleep for almost two hours. A copy editor for a prominent local magazine (a job between graduate school semesters) supposedly working from home, she and her twelve-year-old sister Sydney were staying in the century old house belonging to their Uncle Johnson Wilcox in an old decaying neighborhood near the downtown of a large city.

Nicole, tempted easily to read from the many thousands of old books in Uncle Johnson’s first floor library, had succumbed once again to deep interest in this relatively interesting but old philosophy tome.

But now, she wondered where her little sister was and what the child was doing.

Noting that her uncle was engrossed in the TV in the next room, the East room, Nicole rose and took off down the first-floor hall to look for her sister.

When she passed the front windows of the main front room, she heard again the mob noise from the downtown section. They seemed louder than they had been earlier in the day. Nicole wondered if more people were pouring into the town. Her thoughts vanished at the sound of a voice behind her.

“You looking for me,” it chirped. “I was in the main library room, where you were.” Sydney, an insufferable tomboy of twelve, stood in the door to the hall, a large book in her hand.

“Yes. It’s about time to get lunch ready.” Nicole headed down the hall to the large kitchen in the rear of the house. “You need to get lettuce out of the crispers,” Nicole said over her shoulder as they walked.

“And I’ll round up some bread and meat. We’re going to make sandwiches.”

They had just begun putting the ingredients together when they heard a ruckus from the East room.

A loud male voice hollered “Tie him up!”

A muffled voice cried “What are you doing? Get out of my house! Get out of here!”

Big Harold Knightly and three women had broken through the front door and confronted Uncle Johnson as he sat watching TV in the East room.

“Get him tied then we need to find the others.” The three girls tied up Uncle Johnson while Big Harold looked around the large room for the other family members.

The three girls wore loose, short dresses; Big Harold wore loose pants and shirt. All wore Halloween masks.

Nicole and Sydney, momentarily hiding behind a large bookcase at the East room door, watched the intruders move their tied-up uncle to the couch.

“Shit, they got guns,” Sydney whispered, moving more out of sight behind the case.

“And they’ve got Uncle Johnson,” Nicole added. “We’ve got to get out of here.”

“No…No…If they hear us, they’ll shoot us.” Sydney suddenly rose to her feet and turned. “Come on.” She grabbed her sister’s hand.

They hastened across the hall to an old sitting room where Sydney pushed a corner panel inward.

“Come on,” she whispered as loud as she dared. “We can go this way.”

“What in the world is this?” Nicole asked, an incredulous look on her face.

“We’re going inside the wall.” Nicole followed her little sister into a two-foot- wide passageway that led to a narrow ladder twenty feet from their entrance.

Sydney carefully replaced their entrance door in the wall and then led her sister to the ladder. There she mounted the first rung. “Come on,” she whispered to Nicole right behind her.

They reached the second floor and then began to follow a two-foot wide hallway down the length of the house. Toward the end of this hallway appeared another ladder reaching the third floor.

Sydney stopped here.

“This one leads to a little room,” she stated a little louder than a whisper. “We can stop and rest there.”

“Sydney, this is absolutely incredible.” Nicole, somewhat out of breath, gazed about the narrow confines surrounding her. “I didn’t even know this existed.”

“I know.” Sydney glanced up the narrow ladder to the third floor. “I found it last summer. I don’t think Uncle Johnson knows about it. This house is so old that I think somewhere along the line this was built, probably for security purposes.” Quickly, they climbed to the third floor.

Sydney, followed by her big sister, walked softly down the third-floor passageway to a five by eight room, still within the walls, with one circular window looking out on the east lawn.

“The chimney of the fireplace in the East Room on the first floor is right here.” Sidney patted all the bricks to the left of the entrance to the small room.

Nicole meanwhile looked out of the circular window. “This is incredible,” she whispered again.

On the floor appeared blankets forming a pallet and other items scattered about the floor included a small cardboard box serving as a trashcan.

“I sometimes take naps in here,” Sydney remarked.

“I can see that.” Nicole now looked about the little room. “I always thought you were somewhere lost in this huge old mausoleum when I couldn’t find you.” She glanced over at her little sister and smiled. “Or sometimes outside.”

“I have hiding places out there, too.” The girl grinned back.

Down in the large East Room, Debra, a large girl, was tying Uncle Johnson to a kitchen chair in the middle of the room. Standing nearby Neely and Cassie watched while big Harold stood behind Uncle Johnson and nursed a drink he had made in the kitchen.

“Don’t tie him too tight but make sure he doesn’t get away.” Big Harold, obviously in charge of the little group, barked orders. “And find those other two. And maybe you can get this old fart to tell us where his little playmates are so we can start rounding up everything of value.”

“They’re here somewhere,” Debra replied. “They’re not outside or we would have heard them.” She tied the final knot behind Uncle Johnson and then stood up and straightened her mask.

“Do we have to keep these masks on?” Neely asked.

“Yes, we do not need to be I’d by anyone, particularly that old man,” Harold replied. “Always, unless you are sleeping; I’m going back downtown.” Harold made his way around the tied-up Uncle Johnson and headed toward the entrance hall and front door. “I’ll get Chloe and we’ll be back before dark.”

“You’ll not get away with this!” Uncle Johnson shouted through the wraps around his head.

“We already have.” Debra reached down and chucked him under his chin.

While the intruders talked downstairs, Nicole and Sydney gathered up sheets, pillows, and blankets for a second pallet in their small hideout.

“If they suddenly appear up here, we could get shot.” Nicole gathered up another large quilt. “They have guns, you know.”

‘I know where a gun is.” Sydney picked up another pile of blankets and sheets and turned to her sister.

“I do, too,” Nicole replied. “Down in the East Room hanging over the fireplace.”

“Not that gun,” Syd whined. “Another gun. A pistol.”


“Up in the attic. I’ll show you.”

The two quickly made their way to their third-floor wall inner wall hideaway and stowed the bedding materials, then they listened closely for talking downstairs. When they heard the man talking, they hurried to an exit in a nearby bedroom and made their way to the attic stairs at the back of the house.

The two of them hastened up the stairs as quietly as they could.

In the attic, the two stopped quickly and Sydney pointed to a small room.

“In there,” she whispered. “In an old desk.”

As she had said, in the top drawer of an old dusty desk, Syndey pulled out an old pistol, an old Smith and Wesson military revolver, caliber .45.

“There’s a box of bullets in the back of the drawer.” Sydney reached to the back of the drawer, withdrew a plastic box and handed it to her sister.

“Quick,” Nicole whispered as loud as she dared. “We have to get back to that hideout.” She clutched the box to her body and hurried out, followed by Sydney, gun in hand.

Back at the hideout, Sydney carefully loaded the gun.

“I fired this thing last fourth of July,” she explained. Remember when all the fireworks were going off. I shot it in the back yard at an old milk carton I set up. No one knew the difference. Then I pushed a piece of cloth down the barrel like you’re supposed to.”

She snapped the cylinder closed and carefully set the weapon down on the floor next to her pallet.

Nicole lay down in the next pallet and turned the flashlight off.

Except for a bit of night light coming in through the circular window, the little space was dark as the two sisters drifted off to sleep.”

“Big Harold’s coming back and he’s bringing Chloe with him.” Debra’s voice was loud as the other two intruders were in the West Room. “He’ll want to sleep somewhere after all that shit last night downtown.”

She pulled her pistol from her belt and set it on a nearby lamp table. Then she turned to Cassie, who had entered the room. “Go see how the old man is.”


“And put your mask back on.”

The three female intruders had vowed they would go “treasure-hunting” the next day. This meant they would round up anything of value in the house they could steal. First on the list was a valuable coin collection, pieces of which were exhibited in a case in the East Room. They also knew there were other things of value throughout the house. Of course, during their hunt they would keep an eye out for the two youngsters hiding somewhere in the house.

In the inner wall space on the third floor the next morning the two hunted youngsters stirred.

“We got peanut butter and bread to make sandwiches,” Sydney mumbled, half asleep.

“I could use a cheese omelet,” Nicole replied.

“Sure, if you want to make one for those bitches, too.” Sydney rolled out of her pallet and put her shoes on.

“Still, I’m kinda hungry.”

“there’s some jerky in that box over there. And I think the bread in the plastic case is still good. “Sydney snapped open the aforementioned case and withdrew a half loaf of bread.

Suddenly the two girls became aware of movement below them on the second floor.

“Stay perfectly still,” Sydney whispered and handed her sister a slice of bread.

“They’re ransacking one of the rooms on the second floor,” Nicole whispered back.

“They’re looking for valuable stuff to steal.” Sydney took a slice of bread and reached for the jerky box.

“There’s a big jewelry box in my room down at the end of the hall.” Nicole took a bit of bread.

“There’s a big coin collection in the room next to yours.” Sydney spoke softly with her mouth full of bread. “It’s in several boxes. I looked at some of it the other day.”

“And there’s all those coins displayed in the east room.”

Both girls remained still and chewed their meager breakfast silently.

While Sydney and Nicole finished their breakfast and plotted their next move, Neely entered the big front room carrying a box and wearing a bag over her shoulder.

“We found a bunch of coins and stuff upstairs,” she announced. “This bag is full of old coins.” She took the bag off her shoulder and dropped it to the floor. “And this box has a whole collection of old money and stuff.” She had set the box in a nearby chair.

“Great.” Debra responded. “That stuff is real valuable.” She stood up from a chair she had slept in all night. “Did you two keep your masks on up there?”

“No. We didn’t think there was anybody around.”

“You keep them on, dumbass. Those two kids could be anywhere.” Debra peered beyond Neely.

“Where’s Cassie?”

“She’s still upstairs. There’s more of this stuff in a closet where we were.” Neely set the box she was carrying on the floor and then squatted down behind it. “Look at this, Deb. These are gold.” She held out a small handful of coins.

“Looks like we hit a jackpot there.” Debra squatted down and scooped up a handful of coins from the box. Then she stood up again. “I’m going to check out the old man in the next room.”

“Where the hell is Harold?” Neely stood up and followed her. “He was supposed to be here last night.”

“Probably spent last night with Chloe,” Debra said over her shoulder. “I know he’s been banging her.”

The two intruders made their way into the East Room after donning their masks at the door. There, Uncle Johnson had spent the night tied down on a couch after he had been allowed to visit the downstairs bathroom.

Neely took the old man to the bathroom and them brought him back.

“Well, old man. Where is the rest of it?” Debra sat down on the couch by Uncle Johnson. “I know there’s a lot more. I’ve heard there are other things that are valuable.”

Before Uncle Johnson could answer, there was a commotion in the front room with the arrival of Big Harold and Chloe Tims, an on again off again girlfriend.

Harold and Chloe approached Debra in the east room after donning their masks.

“I’m going back downtown,” Harold stated loud enough for all to hear. “There’s something going on at that big bank down there.”

“Probably another fire, I presume,” Debra replied. “How long is this shit going to go on.”

They were Interrupted by the arrival of Cassie from upstairs.

“Hey Harold, we found silver and gold coins along with a lot of other valuable shit upstairs.” Cassie laid three large collection albums on a nearby end table. “These are filled with old bank notes.”

“Great. Keep looking.” Harold put his hands on his hips. “And find those two kids. They’re bound to be around here someplace.”

“We’ve been looking, Harold.” Debra moved up to him. “But this place is so damned huge. They could be anyplace.”

“They’re two kids, Debra.” Harold turned around toward the front room. “Find them,” he growled over his shoulder. “I should be back late tonight. If not, you’ll know I’ve been busted.”

After Harold left, Debra turned to the other two. “Chloe can stay in that big room at the other end of the house.” She pointed toward the West Room. “There’s a big couch in there she can bed down on.”

“Great,” Chloe stated loud enough for all to hear “All I ask is quiet.” She shouldered an AR-15 and followed Neely toward the west end.

Later, Nicole and Sydney, after short naps, made their way through the narrow inner wall space to the ladder to the second floor.

“I wonder if there is any way to cut Uncle Johnson loose and get the hell out of here,” Nicole whispered to her little sister as she followed her onto the ladder.

At the bottom, Sydney whispered an answer. “I don’t think so. We’d have to shoot one of them, maybe two, to pull that off.” Sydney turned toward the ladder to the first floor.

“I’m thinking they’re thinking we’re in the attic.” Nicole followed her sister down the narrow space, almost hanging on to her.

“Maybe so. But they’re not up there now.”

“There’s an outside door we can get through without being seen,” Nicole whispered from behind her sister.

“Yeah. The one in the west room by the bathroom.” Sydney stopped by the ladder to the first floor. “The door with the steps in front of the fruit cellar.”

“Yes. That’s the one.”

Sydney turned back to her sister. “We can get out of here and find a cop.”

“We have to pass the main hall to get to the west room.” Nicole put her hands on her sister’s shoulder.

“If they are all in the East Room with Uncle Johnson, I think we can make it.”

Sydney adjusted the big pistol in her belt and then very quietly they descended to the first floor.

There, in a Lenin closet off the main hall, they waited and listened. Perfectly quiet, they couldn’t hear anyone in the main hall or on the main staircase, or even in the entrance hall.

When they were sure there was no one around, they emerged from the closet and tiptoed down the main hall toward the door to the West Room.

Just outside the door, Sydney pulled the pistol out of her belt and cocked it.

“Just in case,” she whispered over her shoulder.

When they appeared in the door, they suddenly confronted Chloe on a nearby couch, an AR-15 lying in front of her and Neely standing behind her.

Without hesitation, Sydney raised the heavy gun and fired, striking Chloe squarely in the stomach.

Chloe grunted and clutched her belly with both hands while Neely turned and headed toward the door to the next room.

Sydney fired at her, missing the woman as she ducked to the floor. She rose and headed for the door again.

This time Sydney fired at the woman double action, missing the woman as she ducked through the door.

The bullet struck an iron statue at the door, producing a ricochet that echoed throughout the house.

Now, the two girls in a panic, headed back down the hall toward the linen closet instead of the west room door as planned. There they opened the hidden door and scurried up the ladder to the second floor.

There they lay down in the narrow space to listen for any sound from their adversaries in the large first floor rooms.

“We screwed up,” Nicole remarked in a stage whisper. “We should have headed for that outside door.”

“God, I know. I wasn’t thinking.”

Breathing heavily to catch their breath, the girls thought about their next move.

“We need to get to our hideout and stay there for a while.” Sydney, turned over on her back. “We need to get up there fast.”

“I know. Let’s go.”

The two girls stood and reached the ladder to the third floor quickly where they scurried up to their hiding place. There the two collapsed on their pallets.

After a few minutes, Sydney spoke up. “I hit that one in the belly.” She paused and turned to her sister.

“I missed the other one, though. We could have put two out of action instead of just the one.”

“We could be out in the west gardens now, headed for the west gate,” Nicole replied.

“O shit, I know,” Sydney whispered loud enough for her sister to hear.

They stopped momentarily to listen.” They’re in the back,” Sydney uttered quietly. “They think we’ve gone out the back door.”

“The back door is locked,” Nicole replied. “Remember.”

“Yeah. Uncle Johnson keeps it locked.

“The back door’s locked!” Cassie’s screamed echoed throughout the house. “They couldn’t have gone out there.”

“Then they’re in the attic.” Neely started up the back stairs.

The two women, guns in their hands, clambered up the two flights of stairs to the third floor.

Meanwhile, Sydney and Nicole sat quietly in their third-floor hideout while their two adversaries headed up the back stairs to the attic.

Sydney emptied the large pistol of three spent rounds and reloaded the chambers from the little plastic box.

“We’ve got to develop a strategy to get to the west room door,” Nicole remarked in a stage whisper. “It’s the only door that is not locked. They apparently don’t know that.”

“The woman I shot is in that room,” Sydney replied and set the gun slowly on the floor. “She might be dead.”

“Well, they won’t do anything for her.” Nicole lay back on her pallet. “they’re in the middle of a crime.”

Having searched the attic up and down, Neely and Cassie descended the back stairs quietly.

“Maybe that old bastard knows where they are,” Cassie speculated on the way down.

“He may not know where they are,” Neely added. “But he sure as hell knows where all the valuable stuff in this house is.”

At the foot of the stairs the two turned into the kitchen and ran into Debra.

“Chloe’s dead,” she said, and put her hands on her hips.

” Shit!” Cassie exclaimed and stomped the ground.

“What do we do now?” Neely asked

“We wait for Big Harold.” Debra turned around and started walking out of the room. “And we get that old fart to tell us where the rest of the valuable shit is and see if he has any idea where his two relatives are.”

“Big Harold’s going to be super pissed.” Cassie looked around the large kitchen. “That was his lady. I wonder if any of that stuff is hidden in here.”

“And we find those two assholes,” Debra replied. “That little shit and that bitch that’s with here.”

“They have a gun, Debbie,” Neely remarked quietly.

“So do we! We get our asses out and search.” Debra flung her hands into the air. “We go outside and search, even if somehow they got out there.”

“If they got out there, Deb, they’re probably most of the way to some police station.”

“Who put a bullet through Chloe’s guts, dumb ass?” Debra growled. “We didn’t.”

Cassie and Neely made their way through the front door and began searching the grounds, starting east of the house. As they made their way through shrubs and gardens gone to weeds and seed, they found
no trace of the two girls. They even searched for footprints and recent mud and dirt of steppingstones.

They found nothing.

“They’re inside! They’ve got to be!” Cassie hollered at her partner. “They know they’d be found out here.”

Inside, in their third-floor hideout, Syd had watched the two girls out their circular window.

“They’re searching the grounds again,” she stated quietly.

Nicole, who had been taking a nap, raised a sleepy head. “They could find us easily out there.”

“They’re wasting their time out there, it’s true.” Sydney reclined on her pallet, her hands behind her head. “We do need to think of some way to get out of that west door. And after we get out, to run like hell to the street.”

“One problem, Dear.” Nicole raised up and turned to her little sister. “There’s a woman with a bullet In her in there.”

“She might be dead,” Sydney whispered. She turned to her sister. “I hit her in the stomach.”

“Even if she is, the others are nearby. And they have guns, too.” Nicole rolled over on her stomach.

“They should be especially watchful now on the first floor after they found nothing outside.”

“I worry about what’s going to happen to Uncle Johnson.” Sydney replied quietly.

“So do I. But he’s the only one who knows where all the loot they want is.” Nicole became noticeably quiet. “We need to get him some help the minute we get out of here.”

Nicole and Sydney spent the rest of the day in their hiding place. The three home invaders, however, anticipated the return of Big Harold, whose paramour lay in the west wing room, dead.

“There’s nothing out there!” Cassie hollered at Debra who stood in the east room door. She then collapsed on a couch in the entrance hall. “Is that old man in there all right?”

“He’s all right. Bitchin’ at me all the time.” Debra moved to another couch in the entrance hall across from Cassie. “Big Harold’s going to shit a brick when he finds out about Chloe.”

“Nobody knew that damned kid had a gun.” Neely had quietly entered the entrance hall and stood at a door.

“A gun she still has.” Debra lay back on the couch. “We need to search this place top to bottom.” She turned to her right and threw her legs over the side of the couch. “We need to start with that basement, where that stuff is stored and the part where those plants are. Then from there we need to go from room to room beginning with the first floor. Room to room, floor to floor, completely. We need to find where they are hiding.”

“And stay ready all the time,” Cassie added. “Less that little shit puts a bullet through another one of us.”

“Then we’ll shoot her,” Neely replied. “And the other one if she starts something.”

“There’s three of us and two of them.” Debra fixed the safety on her gun and then put it in her belt.

“We’ll probably have to shoot the little bitch on sight. Otherwise, she’s liable to drop one of us before the others drop her.”

The three women retreated to the big front room to await the arrival of Big Harold.

“If those three bitches find those gold statues, they’ll hit the jackpot.” Sydney lay on her back and stared at the ceiling. “I’m thinking they’re going to shake this place down and then get the hell out of here.”

“And what about poor Uncle Johnson?” Nicole asked. She had awakened completely and rolled on her back.

“I don’t know. We could try to rescue him.” Sydney rolled over on her side facing her big sister. “There would be only one watching him while the other two look for loot, or us.”

“There’s a hideout under the main staircase.” Now Sydney’s voice was barely a whisper. “It’s a storeroom for cleaning stuff. We could take away a board from stair seven. I think it was stair seven.

Anyway, from there we can see what’s going on not only in the main room but in the East Room where Uncle Johnson is.”

“Are you sure we can see Uncle Johnson in the East Room?”

“I think we can. From there we can easily see if they have split up.” Sydney sat up and crossed her legs. “When we see that the other two aren’t there, we can easily get from there to the East Room. I can then plug the woman in there and we can release Uncle Johnson. Then, open the east door to the side yard and run for it.”

“And if one or the other is close by, we become targets.” Nicole sat up. “No, little Sis. We’re liable to get plugged ourselves. Besides that guy is liable to come back.”

But night soon fell and there was no Big Harold. Debra, Neely and Cassie sat around a table in the East Room with Uncle Harold nearby.

“It’s your turn to take the old man to the restroom, Neely,” Debra stated loudly across the table.

Neely rose to carry out her chore, while Cassie leaned across the table to Debra.

“I think we need to look again through that room upstairs where we found the coins and stuff,” she said, quiet so Uncle Johnson couldn’t hear.

“That stuff can wait,” Debra answered abruptly. “I want to wait for Big Harold.”

“He ain’t coming.” Cassie stood and walked across the room to a gin decanter. “If he ain’t here now, he ain’t coming.”

“He’s coming. He’s coming to get his lady.”

“His lady’s dead.” Cassie filled up her glass with ice cubes, water and gin and returned to her chair.

“Yeah, and when he finds that out there’s going to be hell to pay.” Debra settled back in her chair and put her feet on the ottoman in front.

In the meantime, Nicole and Sydney had descended to the first floor and were listening in on the foregoing conversations while hidden under the main staircase.

“I think Uncle Johnson is alright,” Sydney whispered softly to her big sister who was peering through a crack in the fifth step up.

“Yes, but I don’t think he will be for long.” Nicole turned and sat down on the floor. “We have to get out of here and get help, the sooner the better.”

“We could make another try for the west door from here,” Sydney had sat down on the floor next to Nicole. “There’s no one in there now but that dead woman.”

“We don’t know that” Nicole replied. “They could be watching that door like a hawk. After all, they know that we were in there and it doesn’t take a genius to know about that door. It’s probably locked up like a drum now.”

Sydney stood up, the large pistol in her right hand. “The back part of that seventh step comes out,” she whispered. “If we take that out, I bet we could see them in the next room. We’ll know if they’re all there.”

“Are you crazy? They’ll notice that.”

“No, they won’t. All we have to do is count whoever is in the East Room and then put the board back in place.” Sydney reached up and began moving the stairwell board out of its position. “There used to be nails here but for some reason they were taken out.” Sydney quietly pulled the board and carried it to the floor. A shaft of light lit up the little area.

Nicole rose suddenly and struck her head on the staircase underside and fell heavily against the little door in the back. The doorway opened with a loud creak.

“What the hell was that!” Debra exclaimed. “That was real close.”

“I heard that, too.” Cassie rose from the chair and turned toward the entrance hall.

“Hey, look!” Neely pointed at the main staircase. “There’s a stair missing over there.”

Pistols in hand, the three girls headed for the main staircase.

Quickly, Debra mounted to the fourth step and pointed her pistol downward at the missing seventh step.

Before she could fire though, Sydney pointed her gun upwards and fired.

The bullet struck Debra in the groin, lifting her up, momentarily on her tiptoes. Then she fell heavily down the steps to the floor, both hands now clutched tightly between her legs.

In the meantime, the two other girls opened fire on the staircase perforating the third, fourth, fifth and sixth step as Nicole and Sydney scrambled, as low as they could get, out of the stairwell hideaway and into the wall.

Quickly they made their way down to the narrow ladder and headed up to the second floor.

“Jesus Christ, I’ve been shot!” Debra cried from the floor. She rolled over on her stomach, still rubbing herself between the legs.

Cassie ran to Debra and tried to turn her over, but the wounded woman would not let her.

“Neely, come here!” She turned to the girl behind her. “We got to get her to that couch there.” She pointed to a long couch in the entrance hall.

“She’s been shot in the pussy,” Neely said quietly.

“That’s what it looks like.” Now Cassie was able to turn Debra over.

“O, my God. It hurts.” Debra pulled her legs up and tried to curl up into a ball.

“We’ve got to get her some help,” Neely sobbed.

“And get caught.” Cassie shook her head. “We call an ambulance and then get the hell out of here is what we do.”

The two began to gather up the loot they had amassed when the front door burst open and Big Harold stood in the doorway.

“Oh, shit,” Cassie uttered, and she replaced a box full of old coins on the chair she had retrieved it from.

“What the hell is going on here,” Harold hollered, entering the entrance hall and looking to left and right.

“Debra!” He hollered again.

“She’s over there on that couch,” Cassie pointed at the couch at the end of the entrance hall. “She’s been shot.”

“Shot,” Harold roared. “What the hell is going on!” He stepped into the sitting room off the hall. “Where’s Chloe.”

Neely stepped up behind Harold but not close enough to him to come to harm. “She’s dead, Harold. She got shot, too.”

Harold abruptly turned. “Dead.” He began breathing heavily and Neely stepped backward.

“The kid shot her soon after you left,” she replied, trying not to anger the man any more than he already was.

“What kid, for God’s sake. Who? Who shot my lady?” Harold roared.

“The kid who lives here, Harold.” Cassie turned toward Harold. “She got hold of a gun from somewhere in the house and she shot Chloe in that room.” She pointed toward the door to the West Room. “She’s in there on the couch.”

The three of them headed for the West Room, but, in the meantime, Sydney and Nicole had headed back into the little room under the main staircase and were listening to the girls conversation with Big Harold as they headed for the West Room.

“We’ve got to try to release Uncle Johnson while those three are in the West Room,” Nicole whispered to her little sister.

“Yes,” Sydney agreed. “We can get to the east room in just a couple of minutes and cut him loose with this.” She produced a small hunting knife from her belt. “I found this in the attic,” she whispered.

As quickly as they could, the two girls made their way io the East Room and went to work cutting their uncle loose after they had silenced him in whispers.

While Nicole quickly cut him loose, Sydney stood guard, gun in hand, and aimed at the door to the East Room from the hall.

The girls had finished cutting their uncle loose when he stood up and turned. At the same time, Cassie, Big Harold and Neely appeared at the door.

Immediately, the two girls pulled guns from their belts and fired, both slugs high over the startled girls and their uncle.

Immediately, Nicole, Uncle Johnson and Big Harold hit the floor.

Sydney ducked behind Uncle Johnson’s chair and fired on the trio in the doorway.

“Little Bitch!” Big Harold hollered from the floor.

The two girls fired again at Sydney but missed her, while Sydney fired again, striking Neely in her midsection.

The girl dropped her gun and clutched herself while Cassie hugged the floor and fired again, the slug tearing through Uncle Johnson’s chair and grazing Sydney’s upper arm, just tearing her sleeve..

Sydney aimed her large pistol again, but a loud crash as the front door burst open.

“Police!” a shout echoed through the house from a source not yet visible.

Suddenly, two men in suits, weapons in their hands, appeared in the door behind the prostrate trio just beyond the door.

“Drop the weapons Now!” The first man in shouted, pointing his weapon at Sydney behind her uncle’s chair while his partner covered the three on the floor.

Cassie tossed her nine-millimeter three feet in front of her while Sydney dropped her heavy gun, raised her hands and stood up. Big Harold reached his hands straight out in front of him, but Neely still clutched herself and rolled back and forth on her stomach, groaning.

“This character is wanted for arson,” the first man announced and pointed at Big Harold. Both men still covered the company while two others appeared in the door.

“We have a wounded woman over here,” the first man pointed at Neely.

One of the men who had just entered produced a phone and began talking into it.

“There’s one dead in here,” another man called from the hall.

“Oh, God,” Nicole whispered to her little sister who stood just in front of her. “You killed that woman on the stairs.”

Very quickly, Big Harold and Cassie lay on the floor, handcuffed, on their stomachs.

Nicole stepped forward next to Sydney. “Sir,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard. “There’s another woman in the West Room. I think she’s dead, too.”

“Another woman?” the large policeman stepped toward the two girls. “Young lady, what happened here?

“I’ll tell you what happened here, Sir.” Uncle Johnson stood up and stepped forward. “These people tried to rob me blind.” He pointed at the two on the floor.

“That’s the way it looks, Sir.” He looked from Uncle Johnson to Nicole. “Who did the shooting?”

“I…I did, Sir.” Sydney stepped forward.

“You.” A look of incredulity covered the detective’s face. “How old are you.”

“Twelve, Sir.”

“Twelve.” The man stepped forward and picked up the large military revolver. “With this?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Another detective reentered the room. “The girl’s right, Hank. There’s another one in that far room.”

The first detective turned to his companion just in the room. “This little chickadee just told me she did the shooting.”

“Her. Holy shit!” The man pointed at Sydney, a look of incredulity on his face.

“Yes, her. I don’t know what happened here but I can tell you this is the damndest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Uncle Johnson stepped forward, rubbing his hands over the marks made by his bindings.

“My little niece, Sydney, found that gun in the attic. I had completely forgotten that it was there, but I feel that this affair would have turned out worse that it did if she hadn’t found it.” He turned to Sydney.

“She’s always been a spunky one.”

Now the EMS had arrived to treat Neely. Quickly two paramedics performed their duties on the fallen girl and then hustled her out on a stretcher. Big Harold and Cassie, both cuffed, were taken to two separate police cars and transported to a nearby police station.

Transporters from the morgue arrived soon after and collected Chloe and Debra.

Uncle Johnson, Nicole, and Sydney were taken to a nearby police station for statements. All in all, night was almost over when Nicole and Uncle Johnson returned home. Sydney had been retained for further investigation. In the meantime, Sydney’s gun had been taken into the police station as part of the investigation.

She returned home the next day, having been detained in Juvenal Hall after her interrogation. There was to be a hearing concerning her actions during the invasion.

“They’re going to put me in Juvi,” Sydney blurted over her lunch. “I’m going to get a lawyer. Damn it, I’m just a kid.”

“I think you saved mine and your sister’s lives,” Uncle Johnson remarked, quietly.

A week passed with Big Harold and Cassie in jail, Neely in the hospital with a big hole through her large intestine, and Debra and Chloe lodged in the morgue. Uncle Johnson was spending time searching two nearby estate sales for Ming Porcelain, Nicole registered for a course in twentieth century philosophy, and Sydney was busy fulfilling community work detailed by a probation office, a situation set up by her hearing even though she was only twelve years old. Her committee found her guilty of “Illegal use of a firearm and endangering those around her.” Therefore, she spent much of her time doing lawn and garden work for two public parks within walking distance of Uncle Johnson’s huge, old house. Of course, the large, old pistol was taken from her. She was also to report to a probation officer, a Sgt. Holmgreen, a kindly woman who once had been a teacher.

The town was nursing its wounds from the rioting and rebuilding and repairing were the order of the day, but two occupants of Uncle Johnson’s house thanked God for their survival in the previous home invasion while the third, younger one, maintained always that if the need arose, she would do it again.